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I was discussing the use of modal verbs with a friend. I thought about asking a native speaker about it. Would you mind giving your opinion on this? What do you think?

Some students have not studied (well) for the exam. They (won't / mightn't / might / mayn't) pass it.

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I had to look up "modal verbs" in Google Dictionary.

A modal is a type of auxiliary (helping) verb that is used to express: ability, possibility, permission or obligation. Modal phrases (or semi-modals) are used to express the same things as modals, but are a combination of auxiliary verbs and the preposition to.

I'd use: Some students have not studied well enough for the exam. They won't /might not pass it.

I suppose if you were in certain places, words like "mayn't" might be in use. In North America, mayn't is not in use at all.

  • Why not mayn't ? or might ? – Farah H. Yaseen Feb 1 '17 at 21:39
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    @FarahH.Yaseen I edited to add mayn't. Might pass it means they could pass it. I think you were trying to say they probably would not pass the exam, so might not is the way to word it. – WRX Feb 1 '17 at 21:43
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    I thought about it like this. They did not study well enough for the exam, but they studied somehow. This is why I am wondering whether we can use "might" to say that there is a possibility they could pass, but not a very high chance. What do you think? – Farah H. Yaseen Feb 1 '17 at 21:50
  • @FarahH.Yaseen You could. I'd try to be more clear. They might pass is more positive than negative. I'd assume you meant they'd likely pass. If that's not what you mean, add the not. It is still conditional -- they might or not. "Might" means possible, not certain even if you say might not, it still means they could. – WRX Feb 1 '17 at 22:06
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    Mayn't was part of the language a hundred years ago, but it's almost completely vanished now. Some textbooks, especially those published in foreign countries, might be a bit behind the times. – snailcar May 12 '17 at 3:51

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